What’s kinky depends on your position

What’s kinky depends on your position
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First Published: Fri, Nov 28 2008. 11 45 PM IST

Duel theories: Do Indian women use sex toys or are they sex toys themselves?. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Duel theories: Do Indian women use sex toys or are they sex toys themselves?. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Updated: Fri, Nov 28 2008. 11 45 PM IST
Last weekend I briefly forgot which country I lived in. “Sexy secrets,” claimed the cover of the India Today. “From adultery to homosexuality, urban Indians are breaking taboos and pushing the limits of their fantasies.”
Duel theories: Do Indian women use sex toys or are they sex toys themselves?. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
I must admit I was briefly jealous. After all, I hadn’t indulged in half the activities a sexually active, newly liberated India was supposedly embracing. Adultery? Not yet. Sex with a eunuch? I can’t say I’ve ever tried it, unlike 74% of the survey’s respondents in Kolkata.
Then I read the fine print.
I’m still trying to figure out how the magazine interpreted the data as a sign of liberation, of a new India on the cusp of sexual nirvana. I for one found the survey depressing and a confirmation of the fact that in India, women still don’t matter.
According to the news magazine, the “seven deadly taboos”—kinky sex, homosexuality, adultery, incest, underage sex, prostitution and pornography are no longer regarded as out of bounds. “Women are standing up for their pleasures, role playing, even trying sex with eunuchs.” “Fun, fearless and fierce,” the magazine said echoing the fun fearless female tag line of Cosmopolitan, another title published by the same media group.
According to India Today, women are watching pornography as an extension of foreplay, testing the limits of alternate sexuality and willing to explore the possibility of paid sex. Does that make them any more liberated than they have ever been? Just because more people (make that husbands/male partners; 79% of the women surveyed don’t even approve of pornography) have access to the Internet and, therefore, Internet porn, that doesn’t really make us a nation of born-again lovers.
How, for instance, is underage sex an indicator that you’re expressing your bottled sexual self? Twelve per cent of respondents polled in the same survey said their first sexual encounter was without their consent. Forty-six per cent of women who said they had had sex with a blood relation said it was forced. The actual numbers, as the magazine itself says, are probably much higher. Do you approve of underage sex, the magazine asked. Thirty-eight per cent of men said yes against 14% of women. And of course, 35% of the women surveyed said they had never had sex.
Coincidentally, I was reading Rita Banerji’s Sex and Power, a just-out book that examines sexual India in the different phases of its history. In the current “Democratic Period”, says Banerji, the three most crucial issues—population explosion, AIDS and female foeticide—“are the manifestations of a collective sexual malfunctioning of society”.
India Today’s survey doesn’t go near any of these topics.
Indian women are still plagued by a patriarchy that regards them as goddess incarnate and as sex toys, Banerji says. Reading her book reminds me that I still live in a country where women have “no control over their marital state and no jurisdiction over their own reproductive systems”. We don’t acknowledge marital rape and routinely eliminate female babies (not just in villages but in the same neighbourhoods the India Today survey was conducted). Banerji says this systematic elimination of women in our society meets at least four of the five UN definitions for genocide. Yet even in public debates where we worry about sex determination tests and skewed gender ratios, we rarely use the word genocide.
The only conclusion I could come to after reading the India Today survey is that Indian men may be exploiting Indian women in more creative ways.
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Nov 28 2008. 11 45 PM IST
More Topics: Sex and Power | Sex Toys | Women | India | India Today |